Belfast Telegraph

Why are Newcastle and Sunderland struggling so badly?

North-east rivals Newcastle and Sunderland occupy the bottom two places in the Barclays Premier League after poor starts to the season.

Here, Press Association Sport examines whether the clubs can turn the situation around or if they face a full term of struggle.

What has gone wrong?

In both instances there is an argument to say not enough has yet been put right, rather than anything new going wrong. Both clubs narrowly escaped relegation last season and, in Sunderland's case, battling against the drop is becoming an all-too regular occurrence. The Wear-Tyne neighbours have changed managers in recent months in an attempt to find stability, but Dick Advocaat and Steve McClaren need time. Sunderland have been unsettled by a series of unsuccessful managerial appointments while Newcastle's controversial owner Mike Ashley has been accused by the likes of Alan Shearer of alienating fans in the past. Such matters can distract players and it could be a while before anything steadies itself.

But what are the immediate concerns on the pitch?

Newcastle are not scoring enough goals and Sunderland are leaking them. The Magpies have hit the net just twice in their five games - the lowest total in the Premier League - and they have also created the fewest chances, 25. They have only had 10 shots on target. But it would be wrong to simply blame the strikers, as the central midfield players are not getting the ball forward enough. Big names such as Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko are not firing and new signing Florian Thauvin has not impressed. Sunderland have shipped 11 goals in their five outings and Advocaat has tried three different combinations in central defence. Players were also accused of lacking effort and commitment in the opening games.

What are the strengths of the sides?

Sunderland's back four actually looked much improved in their loss to Tottenham on Sunday. They kept good shape for most of the game and frustrated their opponents. There could be no questioning of their endeavour and the partnership of Younes Kaboul and John O'Shea probably looked their best bet. They also boast a vastly experienced and proven goalscorer in Jermain Defoe. Newcastle do seem to be showing greater resilience and organisation than they were towards the end of last season, under John Carver's unhappy brief spell in charge. Georginio Wijnaldum also looks a good addition and Tim Krul offers assurance in goal.

What will last year's experience have taught them?

Last season was poor from both clubs. Newcastle's form nosedived after the departure of Alan Pardew as manager in December and McClaren has needed to restore order. They should have learned there can be no room for complacency, as a poor run of results can be difficult to arrest. Sunderland saved themselves from relegation with a good late run after Advocaat's arrival. They need to replicate the spirit they showed then.

What can be expected from the managers?

McClaren and Advocaat are both vastly experienced, but yet they still have things to get to grips with having inherited struggling and disorganised sides. Based on past records, both should be capable of taking their sides to safety and better.


From Belfast Telegraph